Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Zennist on Big MindTM and Pyschology

I'd missed this post by the Zennist, who does his part in soberly calling Dennis Genpo Merzel to account for his "Big MindTM" process.

To reiterate, Genpo is saying that the Big Mind process unlocks the door to the transcendent. Here we arrive at a most critical juncture. Now the important question is this, is the transcendent that Big Mind reveals the same as transcendent Mind found in the Lankavatara Sutra and other Buddhist works? The answer has to be in the negative. Or putting the question this way, is Genpo’s transcendent mainly about having certain important maturing experiences? If this is Genpo’s idea of the transcendent, then this is not transcendence—not in the true sense of the word. As a matterof fact, the transcendent of which Genpo seems to speak for, doesn’t get us beyond the pale of our psychophysical being, namely, the Five Aggregates which constitute the psychological self or satkaya. Thus, as ever, we are still attached to the suffering machine, stuck in samsara.

At least in Buddhism, the Five Aggregates have to be transcended because they are suffering. Moreover, they are regarded as attributes (skandha) while the substance is Mind which the suffering of the aggregates cannot reach so that liberation for mind will consist in its becoming fully itself as self-realized Mind.

Turning to Zen Buddhism, our initial awakening to Mind (bodhicitta) is what Zen teaches us to accomplish. Having such an initial awakening, we can actually begin to shed our attachment to this illusory body and its attendant psychological phenomena. Short to this, without a glimpse into what transcends the psychophysical, our efforts will be pretty much in vain. Making this even worse is clinging to the belief that psychology can transcend the psychophysical. It can’t. As Siddhartha discovered before he became a Buddha it is by putting aside the psychological in meditation (dhyana), so as to transcend it, that final awakening was accomplished for him.

A post script. A number of years ago I read The Psychological Society by Martin Louis Gross. The book covered just how much psychology had penetrated into every facet of American society. It was a warning to me that eventually Zen would become psychologized. Unfortunately, I was right.

I'd point out to the Zennist that the atmosphere of temple training was appropriated by cults like est and Lifespring long ago, but I share his basic viewpoint, which is that Merzel is selling Krab as Alaskan King Crab, or perhaps better put, teaching people to take scratching their feet through their shoes as equivalent to scratching their feet.

However, I must differ with The Zennist in a couple of places or two. Psychology has its place, to be sure; those who suffer psychologically suffer, and the relief from suffering needed by those so troubled demands a response more targeted than simply sitting on a cushion will provide, just as you can't tell someone who was just hit by a car with myriad broken bones that even though we can take them to the ER, it'd be better for them to practice various forms of mindfulness and breath-awareness instead of getting the help needed.

Perhaps many of Merzel Roshi's audience are so troubled, and an "over the counter" psychological remedy might provide some relief to them; so be it, if it is so.
But let's not call it anything like a true enlightenment experience, a satori (悟り), a kenshou (見性) or anything like a Buddhist awakening.

But such troubled folk exist; at one time we built huge concentration camps for the most severely mentally ill, although we thought we had the best intentions. If Genpo's schtick helps keep people from getting to the point where they need to be separated from others, it's helping. If it's speeding up the process, it's hurting. I think it's probably helping a bit, even if it's not leading to profound changes of one's views of one's self.

It's really important to question yourself every now and then as to whether or not you might be building concentration camps with good intentions.

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